Cabbages and Cyclones: The untold story behind Dorothy’s story
How do cabbages verify the hidden history behind Dorothy’s trip to Oz? If the author thinks it is important enough to put into the novel, it must be significant, right? Of course. As I did some research, I discovered some very interesting historical facts that bear out L. Frank Baum’s classic story, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.
Dorothy’s journey perfectly matches with the mentions of cabbages in the original text. Follow along, and we’ll explore the facts together after the jump.
When and Where did Dorothy live?
First of all, we have to make a determination where Dorothy lived. That is going to decide everything else. We know that she lived in Kansas, but no official location is given. So we are going to assume that Dorothy’s Home is in Liberal, Kansas. Inasmuch as The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was published in 1900, let us assume that this is the year that Dorothy visited the Emerald City for the first time.
Kansas had a slow year for tornadoes in 1900. However, there was an outbreak of tornadoes on the Plains on May 5-6, 1900. Let’s assume that this storm system reached up to Kansas from Nebraska and pulled Dorothy’s house into the air.
What is the deal with cabbages?
Let’s go to Dorothy’s return to Kansas.
Aunt Em had just come out of the house to water the cabbages when she looked up and saw Dorothy running toward her.
“My darling child!” she cried, folding the little girl in her arms and covering her face with kisses. “Where in the world did you come from?”
“From the Land of Oz,” said Dorothy gravely. “And here is Toto, too. And oh, Aunt Em! I’m so glad to be at home again!”
— The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Chapter 24 “Home Again” (emphasis added)
This is a key clue for the timeline of Dorothy’s travels. It is a second testament that Dorothy’s timeline in Oz is accurate.
How do cabbages grow?
Next we consult the Farmer’s Almanac to get some important information about cabbages. Bulleted points are copied from the Old Farmer’s Almanac.
- Start cabbage seeds indoors 6 to 8 weeks before the last spring frost. See frost dates for your area here.
What are the frost dates for Liberal, Kansas? Last Spring Frost (50% Probability) is April 16. Now let’s count backwards with our cabbage seeds 8 weeks and stop at Monday, February 26, 1900.
- Transplant outdoors 2 to 3 weeks before the last expected frost date. Choose a cloudy afternoon.
Cabbages transplanted outdoors about 3 weeks (18 days this time) before final frost. Friday, March 16, 1900.
- Harvest when heads reach desired size and are firm. This will take around 70 days for most green cabbage varieties. Most early varieties will produce 1- to 3-pound heads.
Harvesting first crop about 70 days after planting. This would be Monday, May 7, 1900. But wait, weren’t there storms at this time? Yes. Yes, there were. So, the first cabbage harvest gave limited crops due to the cyclones that passed through May 5-6, 1900.
- To get two crops from early cabbage plants, cut the cabbage head out of the plant, leaving the outer leaves and root in the garden. The plant will send up new heads—pinch them off until only four or so smaller heads remain. When these grow to tennis-ball size, they’ll be perfect for salad.
So the first crop of cabbages was damaged. The second crop will be due in about 70 days (if I read the almanac correctly).
Dorothy’s journey in Oz takes her 65 days. This brings her home just before the second harvest of cabbages. It wasn’t just a dream (like the movie) because of cabbages.
As an author and explorer of literary clues, this journey was exciting. At the outset, I wanted to poke holes in Baum’s timeline and find fault. However, the corroborating evidence of storms in early May 1900 and the harvesting cycle of cabbages convinced me of the plausibility of Dorothy’s journey.
What do you think? Are cabbages enough to convince you? Or is this historical data just coincidental and massaged to fit a preconceived storyline? Also, if there is fault with my cabbage logic, please point it out. If you have more information, please share citations and references.
It’s not exactly cabbages in a tornado, but this short video displays how it might appear if a large crop of cabbages were caught in a whirlwind.
For more detailed stories that mesh with Baum’s original vision, check out The Hidden History of Oz series.
Image of decorative cabbage, courtesy FreeDigitalPhotos.net.